42112 (by brittanymarkert)

I like this image—perhaps for the wrong reasons.

To my eye, it represents a discontinuity with the rest of Ms. Market’s work because I am not inclined to associate it with an obvious photo-historical reference (i.e. Untitled is an obvious homage mashup of Francesca Woodman’s Untitled Providence, Rhode Island, 1975-76 and Untitled Providence, Rhode Island 1976; this still from the hotel haunting screams Diane Arbus via Kubrick, while room 109 invokes David Lynch with the subtlety of a thunderstorm.

Influence is crucial—sheer force of will and work ethic only goes so far. Hell, without inspiration, how many would have picked up a camera to begin with? Let alone kept on after all those rolls of ruined film, struggling through plateau after plateau in the work, etc.

So called fine art photography operates off the principle that imitation of your influences forms the most effective framework for becoming a photographer. Although seen through rose colored glasses, Arno Rafael Minkkinen presents the essential premise behind fine art photography with insight and aplomb in his renowned Helsinki Bus Station Theory.

While I disagree with the notion that gallery owners would so much give you the time of day let alone inquire as to your familiarity with X or Y artist and object to prejudicing the destination over the journey, Minkkinen’s theory does have special resonance for photographers with a vested interest in visual narrative or those—like Ms. Market—who count filmmakers among their foremost influences since the Helsinki bus station presents us a bit of a conundrum.

Even though I am not, let’s say—for the sake of argument— I am a enamored with Stanley Kubrick’s films. But for whatever reason, I prefer the medium of photographer so I arrive the Helsinki bus station and after looking around decide that to take a bus departing from the same platform as Diane Arbus. However, once on board I don’t even make it as far as the suburbs before realizing this isn’t for me. I go back and decide to follow the Walker Evans’ line—which departs from a platform on the opposite side of the station as the previous one. Maybe I make it a little further this time but quickly discover it’s still not for me. What then?

I go back and merely because I have no idea what else to do I wander onto the platform from whence Ansel Adams departed. This time the route choice sticks—but not due to being on a line the focuses on landscape photographer so much as finding a route pathologically preoccupied with the technical. (After all, what Kubrick lacked as a storyteller he more than compensated for with his exacting abilities as a technician and unparalleled production designer.)

Filmmaking and photography are sibling art forms and like siblings, you cannot approach them in an identical fashion. Those of us who come to photography by way of narrative/filmmaking share a frighteningly similar list of influences that, to stick with the metaphor, are dispersed all over the Finnish countryside. Most are contradictory.  Mistakes are going to be made; routes will need to be abandoned and subsequently re-chosen as the line that works for each person is almost never the first choice.

But back to this image—I like it. And I like it because it is one of the few images where I do not feel the photographer is not leaning on something that has been said well before in order to add feeling, depth or relevance to her own ideas.

Flattery is the sincerest form of flattery. Brittany Market demonstrates she handle imitation flawlessly. My interest in her work is what she will produce when she finds herself on a line long enough to leave the Helsinki suburbs behind. This image suggests a great deal of potential that will hopefully be realized in her maturing work.

Those who peruse what I write will be aware of how much I loathe fucking gratuitous/illogical use of portrait orientation.

I never tire of calling that bullshit out. But, for the sake of avoiding redundancy and not beating a dead horse on the subject, I am going to henceforth distill these criticisms to a pithy hash tag: #skinnyframebullshit.

#skinnyframebullshit should be applied here. Further, the awkwardness is compounded by the top frame line’s amputate the young woman’s legs. (And if one was inclined toward hair splitting: an argument can be made that with the angle of light it would’ve been preferable to swap the position of her head and feet.)

Even with these shortcomings, I dig this image a lot. Mainly because it dodges the usual questions of subject/object and exhibitionism/voyeurism back loaded into visual depictions of masturbation. It has the sort of masturbation as punk rock/do it yrself sex positive vibe I adore.


saw a crappy screenshotted version of this photo I originally uploaded.
Don’t understand why someone would do it that way.

A wide-oh mouth spreading vents vocalizations to stem rising tide as if moans lessen the straining pressure. The protruding angle of wedged elbow hinge and the shift of wrist raise strange and secret maritime Braille poems between yawing thighs. Another arm stretches to press a finger into parted lips up to the second joint.

The first pornography I saw was a gift for my fourteenth birthday from Charlie.

A year younger than me, Charlie was really Kyle’s friend. Despite our parents efforts to ensure their kids maintained our own non-redundant age-appropriate friends, Charlie and I were thick as thieves.

So when I demanded a miniature golf/slumber party birthday celebration, Charlie and I finagled getting him invited over the same night to keep Kyle from feeling neglected.

Charlie had discovered his father’s stash of girlie magazines and he had cut out an assortment of images from the few he had managed to steal.

Except for being fourteen instead of ten or eleven, it was entirely prosaic.

That’s why I claim my second experience with pornography as my true first.


Every summer my parents invariably got sick of us not being in school and would hand off Kyle and I to whomever would take us. And despite Charlie being the kid who all the parents considered to be deeply troubled, his folks were always willing to host a rowdy bunch of teenagers.

Also, it didn’t hurt that Charlie’s older sister Caitlyn was just a few year’s older than me. Granted she was boy crazy cheerleader who wanted to be a vet and made a point of volunteering at an animal hospital four days a week. But even though we had nothing in common, I never disabused my mom of the notion that we were friendly.

After all getting scuttled at Charlie’s was generally held to be the best thing ever. And with Caitlyn giving me a wide berth, Charlie’s folks being so permissive and the fact that I could have as much privacy as I wanted or be one of the boys depending on my mood was thrilling.

On the second to last day of our stay, Charlie convinced Kyle and I to accompany him to a place he called The Fort. We got all the necessary gear together: Charlie grabbed a box of shells and his dad’s shotgun. I was assigned the Daisy BB pistol which consumed CO2 cartridges at roughly the same rate we consumed Mountain Dew.

Kyle wasn’t happy I got the pistol. And he actually had a point. I was hand’s down the best shot with it—able to hit a grape at thirty feet; but I had constructed a shockingly functional shoulder holster from some RJ-11 wire we’d found discarded.

Kyle, against bitter and vociferous objections ended up stuck with the rifle.

We set out across the back yard toward the woods lining the property.

The trek itself was mild to moderately pastoral with some Appalachian grace notes thrown in for good measure. We climbed fences, crawled along a fallen tree over a lazy creek.

We only stopped once.

We’d been angling through a rolling meadow when I spotted to Jersey cows staring at us from behind a barbed wire fence maybe sixty feet from us. Charlie saw them too and handed me the shotgun, motioning for holstered pistol.

I handed it over and watching him draw a bead down the barrel on the rightmost cow, fired—a whiz-click sound; missing high and right. He reloaded before firing again: a palpable hit. The cow didn’t seem to mind.

Charlie handed the pistol back wordlessly communicating: your turn. He reclaimed the heavy shotgun. I raised the pistol, aimed, breathed in deeply, halfway out and squeezed the trigger. The cow snorted and shook her brown head so I fired again.

I passed the pistol to Kyle who for all his pissing before now wanted nothing to do with it. Charlie was adamant he take a shot. Knowing Charlie we wouldn’t have gone a step further until Kyle at the very least shot in the direction of the cows if the darkening of the sky along the horizon didn’t so thoroughly telegraph the approach of a gathering storm.

The Fort, as it turned out, was less northing more and nothing less than a northeastern style farmstead, its wood panel exterior warped and waterlogged. It been white at one point; however, the paint had long since fallen away, revealing the ugly wasp daub grey siding. Scorch marks spread char-black up and out from the second-story windows.

Inside, there was only enough drywall left to imply the boundaries between rooms. Charlie headed upstairs, my brother trailing after him.

I moved room to room. But with the exception of dead leaves piled in corners, discarded beer cans and a grime-matted mauve hoodie ground into the floor beside a mangy, dust-encrusted mattress there was nothing to see.

The stairs sighed under my weight. And I heard a faint hissing, like rain against the side of the house as I climbed.

The stairs opened onto a picture window which Charlie stood centered in facing out. I realized the sound wasn’t rain; he was pissing out the window.

The second floor was completely open end-to-end: charred floor, rafters and dead light drifting dustily in through a handful of dormer windows.

Charlie’s stream of urine ebbed then stopped.

He turned away from the window; I looked away down the length of the open room where a dozen plus knee high stacks littered the floor.

I approached the nearest stack. A bespectacled young girl—too young?—smiled up at me; her glasses and face were lined with thick, white fluid. A second before what I was looking at dawned on me, I realized this girl bore a startling resemblance to a classmate on who I had an outsize crush. This girl had the same glasses, same playfully innocent smile and nearly flat chest.

The other stacks revealed comparable material, a hodge-podge of hardcore mainstays (Hustler, Stag, Swank) as well as more off-beat fare with highly questionable legality (i.e.70’s vintage Color Climax).

I was in a daze and it Charlie a minute to take a green object from him.

The object consisted of a thin, green scarf carefully wrapped around something square-ish. I unfolded the top two flaps, followed by the two beneath it to reveal a stack of Polaroids.

The first two were only clear enough to offer a general impression of what was depicted: high school kids having sex on the ratty mattress downstairs.

However, the focus in the third image was stunningly crisp: a girl, maybe fourteen, naked except for an open, button front shirt, cradled by a second girl—naked except for panties—who crouched beside her. The second girl’s left nipple was pinched tightly between the first’s bone-white teeth. The cradled girl’s right elbow was clasped behind her knee. The fingers on the second girl’s right hand where laced together with the first girl as she helped her hold her knees wide for the naked boy between them. The cradled girl’s right held the boy’s cock, covering the head; a forked trail led from a small pearlescent pool on her abdomen—the longest branch stretching across her flat chest to just below her supersternal notch.

With the angle of view the second girl and boy’s body formed an ellipsis framing the first girl.

I was too overwhelmed by what I saw to discern whether or not I liked it. Not knowing how I felt about what I had seen made me profoundly uncomfortable.

I flipped through all the Polaroids once before wrapping them up and handing them back to Charlie. His expression asked what I thought. The roar in my ears was deafening, I couldn’t think so I ran down the stairs and out of the house.

Outside, I circled the building aimlessly. I picked up a black spray pain can. Stood it on a white rock Grabbed the pistol, shot, reloaded, shot again until the can spewing the rabid black foam.

The boys were inside for a while. But before we headed home, Charlie took the pistol from me and gave it to Kyle. Who in turn offered me the rifle but clutching the shotgun, Charlie advised him that it was better if he held onto both.

With each step, my wire holster swung awkward and empty against my body.

In my life, maybe half-dozen things have caused such overwhelming sexual arousal as that third. It wasn’t just that I felt an affinity for the content and or the execution hauntingly beautiful; what got me was the openness.

Keep in mind that at my Xtian high school admitting to suffering any sort of sexual appetite let along a non-standard deviant one was forbidden. Anyone who even intimated as much was castigated.

And while I have no way of knowing how matters turned out for the people in that Polaroid, I believe with all my heart, mind and soul that sharing that kind of intimacy with others is the only truly sacred thing in this world.

It’s like asking: is this darkness in you, too? Have you passed through this night? But instead of telling about it, you take the questioner by the hand and show them your answer.

Ilina Vicktoria

An increasing number of image makers claim to have been disproportionately influenced by Andrei Tarkovsky; few benefit from comparison. (Only two come to mind: Bela Tarr and to a greatly diminished and inconsistent effect Gus Van Sant.)

I am not sure Ilina Vicktoria espouses Tarkovskian influences but considering this famous still of Anatoliy Solonitzyn as Pisatel in Stalker crowned with twisted tree branches bears more than a passing resemblance to the top image, I’d say the odds are good she does.

Her angle of view and scale are different. Also, in her photo the branches serve less of a crown than a mobile artfully counter weighted with Siberian dogwood berries. (Also what is with that distorted blob: is it a light leak? How is it’s position so freakishly perfect to balance out the baseboard/floor and curtains at the lower right edge of the frame? It’s slightly unnerving given the clear Stalker reference—a film notable for being shot twice due to the lab ruining the original footage.)

Something deeper links Vicktoria to the famed Russian auteur, something more than similar content and shared nationality, something more like an attitude toward the image. An attitude built upon a belief of what images are meant to do.

Tarkovsky tries to say something about this attitude but his explanations skew all-to-readily toward justification and abstraction. But it wasn’t until searching for the aforementioned still of Solonitzyn for this post that I stumbled upon this awesome article on Stalker. In it, Brecht Andersch describes the effect Tarkovsky’s films achieve as follows:

The members of Tarkovsky’s audience, if only subconsciously, are brought to awareness of their own hidden depths, of the calling of the soul, of the imperative quest for the sacred. To see his films is to experience the process the Russian filmmaker described as “scales falling from the eyes”.

And that is how you can spot the real Tarkovskians even from low orbit: they are less interested in creating beauty as revealing it was there all along. (Not at all unlike Michelangelo trying to free the form which existed within the stone with his Unfinished Slaves—I can’t help but think Tarkovsky had these monumental sculptures just as much in mind as he did Acts 9:18.)

The question I am left with is: how the transcendence of discovering what is in plain sight instead of manufacturing spectacle can be applied to the visual depictions of sexuality (which is itself a pathway to transcendent experience.)

(Kudos to youarecordiallyinvitedtopissoff for once again bringing another mindblowing photographer to my attention that I never would have otherwise found.)

How much wonder do we miss?

As if wonder is snow & we are all kids staring up at a smoke grey sky, our mouths wide with waiting for that quick, crystalline tang to kiss our tongues.

For each kiss we catch, how many do we miss?

But, isn’t wonder everywhere— 

In the way shy surrender to the certainty of needing tinges the lids of eyes & cheeks with a pink pre-blush patina.

& afternoon light softens the bare, oft-hidden skin below the smooth up-tilt of a chin.  

Wonder: the finger slid slyly between lips & teeth—careful to touch nothing.